RUSK — How does a book about a town filled with wealth and riches, along with many different characters sound? Throw in a murder that rocks the town and creates a myth and you’ve got a book about New Birmingham.

Kevin Stingley, a history teacher at Rusk Junior High School, has stacks of folders of information on New Birmingham, and he is almost finished researching for a book about the town which he’s considered writing for several years.

Stingley said he got the idea to write a book about the thriving-community-turned-ghost town, approximately eight-and-half years ago.

“I was sponsoring a group of junior historians from junior high, and I thought it was a good idea to have them visit the museum,” Stingley said.

While at the museum, Virginia Penny, who was a worker at the museum at the time, shared with Stingley some little facts about New Birmingham.

“I got fascinated and got interested in it,” Stingley said. “The first picture I saw was of the Southern Hotel, on the corner of U.S. 69 and FM 323 on Atoy Highway. You can still see the magnolia trees there.”

From there, he said, the research — and findings — grew.

“I located the great-granddaughter of the founder of the town, who lives in Central, (a town located just north of Lufkin),” he said. Supposedly, Alexander Blevins founded the town, but Stingley found out the real founder was Anderson Blevins.

“She said, ‘well, yes my great-grandfather founded the town, but Alexander wasn’t his name — it was Anderson. Alexander was his brother.’

“So you see how oral history works,” Stingley said with a laugh.

Stingley said New Birmingham, a once thriving town approximately a mile-and-a-half from Rusk, came into existence due to the iron ore and railroad industries.

“The town was built as an iron ore industry town. The town was built on credit,” Stingley said.

According to Stingley, New Birmingham founder Anderson Blevins came to begin the town after moving from Alabama. Several other families moved to New Birmingham — named after Birmingham, Alabama — to find a booming town filled with many goings-on.

“Anderson Blevins was an entrepreneur,” he said. “He named it New Birmingham because he was a part of the railroad at Alabama.”

The town, founded in 1888, included more than 2,000 people in population, but became stagnant by 1895, Stingley said, eventually becoming a ghost town.

“Furnaces had closed and by that time people left,” Stingley said. “During the national depression, there was a drop in steel (production) and no need for iron ore anymore.”

Stingley, who is also a member of the Cherokee County Historical Commission and president of the museum’s board of directors, said the most intricate part of the process is not research, but the actual writing of the book.

“You can’t follow a time line with this particular subject,” he said. “Everything happened with a certain time period, and it’s all intertwined. You can follow (events) in chronological order — event to event — and you end up wanting to develop some kind of flow so you won’t lose the reader. That’s where a good editor is going to come in.”

But, Stingley said the best part is the actual research.

“I always tell myself, I’m never going to find a picture, and poof, I find it.” Stingley said. “The research is the fun part, but the dull part is going to be banging it out at the keyboard.”

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